The figurative language of Bonnie Garmus…

Reading time: About 1 minute

I like to share interesting pieces of figurative language I encounter in my reading. I write today about a series of similes from Bonnie Garmus….

Bonnie Garmus is an American copywriter and creative director who currently lives in London. Now, she has a best-selling breakout novel on her hands, Lessons in Chemistry

I found the book to be both lively and funny and while it’s set in the early 1960s, the unrelenting sexism of the day reminded me of my experience at daily newspapers in the male-dominated 1980s.

But the best aspect of the book, is the way Garmus uses figurative language. Here are my favourite examples:

  • Tall and angular, with hair the color of burnt buttered toast pulled back and secured with a pencil, she stood, hands on hips, her lips unapologetically red, her skin luminous, her nose straight. She looked down at him like a battlefield medic assessing whether or not he was worth saving.
  • Calvin let loose a long, low whistle. When one is raised on a steady diet of sorrow, it’s hard to imagine that others might have had an even larger serving.
  • It irritated her that he continued to crane his neck toward Zott like a plant to sunlight.
  • “A meeting?” Calvin said, as if she’d just announced she was attending an execution.
  • [The dog] tall, gray, thin, and covered with barbed-wire-like fur that made him look as if he’d barely survived electrocution, he stood very still as they shampooed him.
  • She slipped away…and went to explore the boathouse, pausing in front of a rack holding a forest of oars so impossibly tall it looked as if giants played here.
  • An army of tears lay just behind her eyes, but they refused to decamp.
  • She made a sad sound, like a tire slowly losing air.
  • “I’m sorry,” he said gently, studying her face the way a meteorologist might watch a storm develop.
  • Every day she found parenthood like taking a test for which she had not studied.
  • They both looked to Madeline, who was staring at her fingers as if surprise to find they weren’t all the same length.
  • She read the article twice just to make sure. The first time, slowly. But the second time she dashed thorough it until her blood pressure skipped through her veins like an unsecured fire hose.
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